Zhu Zhu Pets Hamsters, This Holiday Season's Big Toy Craze, First Caused Stir in Phoenix

Valley Fever told you about one kids toy this year, and it turned out to be what the Associated Press now calls "this year's bona fide must-have toy."

Zhu Zhu Pets hamsters, formerly called Go Go Pets hamsters, got their start with some test marketing in Phoenix this past spring. Valley residents fell in love with the small, furry robots.

Our May 18 blog post about the hamster toys drew comments from parents acting like they were on a treasure hunt:

Aly says:

i cant find these anywhere. I looked in toys r us, walmart, target, and none of them have it. the site said walmart and toys r us do butthey dont. my little cousin wants these, but you cant even get them online. i dont even know where to find them or how much they are! does anyone else know???

Tracy says:

I had my husband go to all three stores they have on the website and not one of the stores carry these toys. We promised our daughter with out researching. Great! I don't think they are very expensive because I bid on one at ebay starting at 9.99. I will have to limit myself. I would rather tell my kid, they are not in stores than break the bank. Please Post if anyone else can find them retail.

Skeptics that we are, we wondered if some of the comments had been generated by marketers trying to create a buzz. But the frenzy was real. The AP article states that the small toymaker, Cepia of St. Louis, is expecting sales revenues of up to $400 million by the end of next year.

We're not sure when the company changed from Go Go to Zhu Zhu, or what Zhu Zhu means. One obscure blog post we found claims that Zhu Zhu is similar to a translation of the Chinese word for guinea pig, but that the name is probably just an ad-man's creation. A Web site with the old name is still up and running.

Whatever they're called, the little buggers and their gear can still be hard to find. In Indianapolis, people are reportedly fighting over the toys.

Valley kids know what's hot.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.